The Path

I did not choose divorce because I wanted to be happy.  I chose divorce because I didn’t want to continue to be not happy.  There is a difference.  Unless you have been there, you won’t understand the difference.  When my wife and I sold our home a little over two years ago, separated and went our separate ways, I knew there was a tough road ahead, maybe more difficult than the crooked and uphill one I had been travelling for years.  And that was it.. I was tired.  The pain of climbing that road had become too much, and I knew that it would do nothing but continue the same way if I didn’t make the choice to take a different path, one that wouldn’t guarantee happiness, but maybe just maybe there would be relief.

There wasn’t another woman to turn to, no one pulling me away from my marriage of nearly 25 years.  Changing the path meant making an extremely difficult decision, one that I contemplated for years.  It meant losing a life that I knew and was comfortable with, estranging myself from in laws and nieces and nephews that I truly love, risking friendships and developing new ones.  I was Uncle Steve, a guy those nieces and nephews admired.  Suddenly I was no longer Uncle Steve — my status was former.  I miss them, miss watching them become adults, miss fawning over their children.  That was part of the happiness that was my marriage.  I knew I would lose that.  That is part of the sadness.

Oddly enough, I am glad that I have found out who my true friends are.  There have been people who look at me like an evil person who had left their friend.  That judgement is part of any divorce, for that is what happens — judgement.  There are the mutual friends who treat me the same now as they did before, I suppose they are the ones who made it through the character sifter, and I see that as a blessing.  Truthfully, a lot of time can be wasted on superficial relationships, and difficult times have shown me the good ones.  New friendships have developed, some of them renewed friendships, relationships that now feel like a true gift, as if I needed something to help me realize the value of true friends.

I have a lot of them.

I am a Christian, the #2 reason why the decision to divorce took so long in coming.  I had to figure out that God hates divorce because of what it does to me, not because it’s a sin.  He reached out to me during the heart wrenching times of the last few years of my marriage, through the loneliness and frustration.  I found it really hard to take God’s hand during that time, often enough I couldn’t.  Oh, I thought I was reaching out to him and I cried (and screamed) plenty to God.  During that time, I felt a gap, a vastness of separation from God.  Really, it was that pain that I honestly wanted to carry myself that wasn’t creating that gap.  Only when I made the decision that I needed to make… yes, I needed to make… was I able to approach God.  He is always there, always calling, always wanting me to come to him and it took laying down that burden at his feet before I begin to be not happy.  I had to learn to recognize God’s presence again, his constant blessings.  I am not one to say the things happen for a reason.  I honestly don’t think that is what God is about.  I think God is about showing me the way when I look to him, before and after and during the good times as well as the hard times.  Divorce changed the way I approach God, affected the way I trust him, renewed my ability to tell him thanks every day, helped me to see him in a different light.  He made me in his image, after all, and there is no way he hates his own creation.

That brings me to the #1 reason divorce was such a difficult decision — my wife and my children.  Yes, my wife.  A lot of people leave that out.  It’s not that I stopped loving her.  It’s that it hurt so much to love someone who could not, would not respect me.  Yes, I didn’t want to hurt my children, as well.  I wanted to and still want to be the best father I can be.  I tried very, very, very hard to be that father.  My wife would not let me be the father I wanted to be, would not support me as the father I wanted to be, got in the way and resented me in many ways.  I knew that divorcing would damage the relationship I have with my children for a while, but that it would also give me a chance for them to have a relationship with me without her influence.  I have seen my relationship change with my children over the last two years — most of it is good.  There is still healing that needs to take place, but that toxicity that existed two years ago barely exists now.

What is life like now?  It took over a year on my own before I could feel myself beginning to heal.  Separation felt like jumping into an ice cold pool of water.  There was no wading in.  That was what it took, because I had spent the last few years of my marriage dipping my big toe into the water, afraid of the cold reality.  I jumped in and it indeed it was a shock that took some getting used to.  However, I was in up to my neck, so I had to deal with it.  I had to get used to being by myself, find ways to reach out to people, learn to make new friends.  I have.  Slowly, I am learning to accept my status as a divorced man.  I am not sure it will ever feel completely right.  But, well, not happy has become at peace.. and I needed that so much.

Dating as a newly single 58 year old man is different.  I didn’t waste too much time trying that out.  Most men are that way, I think.  The only thing is that I really didn’t know what I wanted, just that it had been so long since I had someone close to me.  Shortly after my divorce, I met someone online and dated her for a little over a year.  I learned my lessons from her, good lessons, got to experience the life of dating as an “adult”.  I also learned a little about what I want in a relationship, and that I am not really ready for a new wife.  After that year of dating, I got to be the scum bucket who did the breaking up.  That wasn’t easy!  I swore that I was done with online dating — the pressure of a serious relationship is just too great with online dating (at least it is for me).  I have a profile, but don’t use it.  A few months after the break up, I started casually dating a neighbor of mine, someone who I have been getting to know since I moved into my condo two years ago.  It’s been a good thing, although it was a bit scary at first.  She lives in the building next door.  I like her, enjoy that she gives me my space (which seems ironic since she lives so close), am not feeling the pressure to jump into a serious relationship.  Oh, I get my hugs and kisses from her, but I don’t see a ring on my finger in the near future.  It’s nice to have a friend who enjoys getting to know me, fits me very well,… and respects me.

It’s my hope that my children will learn to let me be with someone.  They are not ready yet.  I know it’s different for everyone.  Some children want to see their parent enjoy dating again, others need a lot of time before they can accept that.  It’s OK.  I just hope that some day they will.  I am not going back to their mother.  It’s so obvious now that we, the both of us, needed that change.

Lots to learn.  The path is leveling off, becoming more and more straight as I journey on.

Advertisements

Puddletrack

Tags

, ,

Too bad my fat bike doesn’t float.  The tires are large, but they are not buoyant.  Here in northern Illinois, we are having one of the wettest Spring seasons on record.  For off road bicyclists such as myself, that can be frustrating.  It’s not good for most people.  The trails closest to me are next to a river, are built on and in between berms that are swampy even during the dry seasons.  For more than a month, they have not been rideable.

SWK swampSome people don’t care, judging from the damage to the trails.  This picture was taken a few days ago.  It’s obvious that there are quite a few people who just rode through it.  The section pictured is a the bottom of the trail head connector.  I am surprised that it wasn’t blocked.  When I rode last night, it was still a quagmire though no longer covered with water.  I turned around and entered the trail from another connector.  Riding mud is not fun, plus it screws with a bike.

We had a few days without much rain.  Most of the trails were in great shape last night, although I still had to be careful, had to avoid some trails.  Last Sunday afternoon, I rode another trail system in the Chicago area with some friends.  They were scary difficult, rocky with steep and twisty descents/climbs.  My new bike, a carbon Salsa Deadwood SLX with 29+ wheels (2.6 tires, for now) helped give me the confidence to at least attempt everything.  Three hours of riding and I was satisfied, not as tired as I could have been.  Even though off road cycling has not been a viable option for the past month, I have been riding.

My fat tired bike has proved to be an entertaining riding option.  Pretty much out my front door are forest preserves and rails-to-trails paths, so I have been riding 4-5 days a week on those trails.  There is an old landfill a few minutes away, now a recreational area, that has added an option for climbing.  There is more resistance to riding paths, especially on a fat tired bike, so I feel stronger now than ever.  I ain’t no stud, but I ain’t no slouch either.  Of course, my roadie friends have helped me a little.  We have ventured out on the path the past two Wednesdays, rode to a little craft brewery to participate in their trivia night (third place the first time we trivia’d), then trekked home with lights.  It’s tremendous fun!

When it rains on my cycling parade, I make my own parade, I guess.

Another gully washer this afternoon.  Rats.

I Get to Look at Tall Buildings

Tags

, , , ,

…and I looked at them in a single bound.

*insert rim shot*

Chicago can be a cool and interesting place, even to a small town bumpkin such as yours truly.  Generally, even though I live within spitting distance of the city, a western suburbanite who prefers the peaceful serenity of the burbs,  I turn up my nose at the city, pooh pooh the noise and grime and crowds and intrusiveness that comes with urban life.  Until I get a chance to embrace city life, experience it vicariously through friends or an unique adventure, I bad mouth city life in the spirit of true ignorance.  Saturday was a day where I was treated to an adventure that showed me the city in a unique light.  Even though I will never want to live there, I can appreciate Chicago a bit more.

A friend invited me to join her for a trip into the city to take an architecture tour of Chicago via boat.  She lured me by offering to pay for the day, a treat for my birthday.  I’m old and cheap, so it’s easy to tempt me with cheap inexpensive entertainment.  Besides, the Chicago architecture boat tour has always been intriguing to me, so no real temptation was necessary, no pied piper.  We took the train into Ogilvie station early in the morning, the trip not only fun because it’s not something I do every day, but it was unique in another way — for some reason the porter passed by us the entire trip.  It was if we were invisible.  We exited the train at Ogilvie, puzzled by the strange behavior of the porter, thankful to have saved $20 on the train trip.  As it turned out, we had to buy tickets at the station for the trip home — $14.87, so our transportation was $5 less than planned.

Planning comes natural to Lisa, a certification administrator for a hospital network.  She also is a Groupon junkie, thus the cheap inexpensive boat tour.  It was a deal.  The walk to the boat was a fairly long trek from Ogilvie station, but Lisa knew how long it would take us to get there.   Along the way, we would use a gift card to purchase coffee and breakfast, at an Einstein bagel restaurant on the route to the boat dock, a restaurant that Lisa had located prior to our trip together.  As I found out during the course of the day, it was a much better experience to go to the city with someone who knows the city and has a plan.

Viewing Chicago from the river and Lake Michigan lends a whole new perspective to the city.  It looks more wide open, for one thing, an opportunity to view the intimidating behemoths towering straight above from a much less restrictive view.  I was able to see the characteristics of each part of the city, witness the inhabitants enjoying the city in a different way.  The boat took a route that entered the river from the river side of the lock at Navy pier, east of Lake Shore drive.  There are no skyscrapers save one east of Lake Shore drive, something that Montgomery Ward lobbied for nearly 100 years ago and what adds to the beauty of the city.  So as we approached the city on the Chicago river from the east side of Lake Shore, we were able to take in the awesome approach of the expanse of the buildings from an outside vista, as if the city was a natural part of the horizon.  It belongs there.

Even the Trump tower belongs.  Built in 2009 to blend in with the curves of the river and the city around it, the tower adds an elegance to the view.  Unlike its namesake, it’s neither garish nor rude.  True to Chicago, it adds to the history, fits with the architectural era it was built to fill (post modernism).  That is what makes the architecture of Chicago so rich — its buildings tell a story, show a little what life was like in each stage of its history.  There are so many iconic buildings in Chicago — the Hancock, Willis (Sears) tower, Merchandise mart, NBC tower, River towers, Vista (will be the tallest woman designed building in the world), Monadnock,.. just to name a few.  To be able to view these buildings from a historical perspective, often with several eras side by side, adds to the pure enjoyment of the tour.

The boat cruised the main channel as we viewed the expanse that surrounded us, yet did not encroach, turned south as we learned the story of the Chicago fire that devasted that part of the city, then turned north to witness some of the history of gentrified warehouses turned upper end residential.  At the end of the tour, the boat swung out towards the lake, then back to give an excellent picture of Chicago’s skyline.IMG_20190608_132041868_HDR

It was a treat.  I have lived close to Chicago nearly my entire life, a suburbanite the last thirty or so years.  Until now, my idea of the city was a large looming hodge podge that closed me in, that offered no true value in terms of peace or serenity.  My opinion was closed minded, I knew and know.  That’s just it — I am human, influenced by what I know, which is the open prairie with it’s flat, wide open, free space.  The city made me feel claustrophobic.  Now I see that someone who truly loves the city does not need to feel that way.

Tour over, we headed towards Navy Pier, a tourist area with a huge ferris wheel that extends out into Lake Michigan.  I was promised a special surprise, a treat.  When I saw it, my eyes became saucers — Rainbow ice cream, layers of different flavors scooped into one cone or cup.  Chocolate, pistachio, butter pecan, cherry, strawberry, and topped by orange sherbet.  It was INCREDIBLE.  We found a place inside the pier mall to enjoy our treat, walked the shops.  My other treat there was to ham it up on one of those screens with a camera that captures the viewer, places a goofy hat and mask on them.  I probably spent way too much time messing with that.

From there, we walked to the Little Italy area of Chicago.  Chicago is like many cities, with sections that reflect an ethnic flavor, one of the characteristics of the city that adds a richness.  We had reservations at an old style italian restaurant, downed fresh pasta (gnocchi for me) with plenty of garlic spread on fresh bread and a little bit of wine.  It was a terrific way to cap the day.

Instead of walking back to Ogilvie station to catch the train back to the western burbs, we summoned a Lyft driver.  After close to 22,000 steps (nearly 9 miles), we both were beat.  Our driver dropped us off at the station with ten minutes to spare before the train was scheduled to leave.  We arrived home with an evening left to share, spent outside with more wine on my balcony, waiting for the bats to fly overhead at dusk.

Yes, bats.  It’s not creepy at all.  Rather, they are fun to watch as they weave towards the river close by, going home after a day spent away.  Perhaps they are checking out the city as well?

 

Every Parent

FB_IMG_1559065784800She’s in her element, enjoying the job and place so much that it’s easy to see it’s her life.  The Spring concert for her students was a success, so much of her personality poured into the presentation — a ukelele duet with another teacher, the Imperial March conducted with a light saber, a flute solo accompanied by her students.

As a parent, this is not just a dream to see my daughter flourish, it’s a gift.

No longer a phone call away

Today is mother’s day.  I am staying away from Facebook today, avoiding any restaurant that serves breakfast or brunch.  It’s not that I don’t like seeing people honor their mother or celebrating.  On the contrary, I think it’s important that we do.  We all need to take the time to focus on the person who brought us into this world, nurtures us, loves us unconditionally.  Mother’s day gives us the opportunity to feel like we have done that.  Mother’s day is just as much, maybe more, for the children as it is for the mother.

Think about it.  It’s true.  Some give back to their mother well, do things for her and show her how much they love her.  Even that person needs that one day to validate their love, to help them to feel like they have really shown her how special she is.  Others, and I was probably one of them, MUST have a day to do just that.  We need to feel we have shown her.

My mom used to drool over the prospect of one of her sons saying something about her on Facebook.  That medium was her livelihood the last few years of her life, when knee replacement, foot and ankle surgeries made it difficult for her to get around for very long.  Mom was not one to let a walker or cane keep her from being mobile, her stubborn refusal to let anything keep her down one of her endearing qualities.  Those maladies forced her to spend more time in her easy chair, something that was more painful to her than her physical pain.  However, the Christmas my brothers and I chipped in together to give her an iPad changed her world, expanded it, gave her a way to move beyond that cushioned prison.  Mom was a lover, not so much a physical hugger, but nonetheless one who made her friends and family and anyone who came in contact with her feel deeply loved.  Mom had very few superficial relationships.  When that tablet brought into the world of Facebook, every post by one of her boys or her grandchildren or her friends or nephews/nieces received a comment from Mom.  Every picture shared, every little meme or joke or announcement of another Cardinals win received a like and appreciation from her.

She liked it when I reached out to her there every Mother’s day.  For her, it was better than a card.  I could get to her at the beginning of the day, essential for me since Mom and Dad lived three hours south of Chicagoland.  If I remembered to send her a present or a card, which happened most but not every Mother’s day, that would be the best I could do.  I tried to call her early in the morning, knowing that she and Dad would be up early to go to church and then out for a meal.  I can still remember that soft southern drawl, warm and tender, when she answered the phone.  Oh, hello Steve was always the first thing she would say, as if it was a surprise that I called.

This is the first year that I can’t call her.  I have my memories of her, I guess the best way I can communicate with her today.  Mother’s day is now in my heart, a day when I remember the woman who….

Tucked me in every night, until this little boy decided he was too big of a boy for that.

Waited for me to come home during those crazy high school years.

Showed me what it means to not just believe in Jesus, but to know Jesus.  There’s a difference.

Set the bar of honoring my father to a height that no woman will ever be able to reach.

Supported me even when I was wrong.. probably is the reason for my enormous ego.

Demonstrated a strength that every one of her children possesses because of her.

Cried with me when I needed someone to cry with… sometimes there was no one else.. and she never turned me down, never showed me the burden that sometimes carried.

Played the piano with her heart, something it’s nearly impossible to understand until you hear it, but anyone who heard her play knows what I mean.  I went to sleep many a night hearing her heart beat through her fingers on the keys.

This is my first heavenly mother’s day.  I didn’t to call her this morning, but I did get to reach out to her through my words, maybe one of the gifts she passed on to me.

Thanks, Mom.  I love you.  Somehow, it’s OK that you are no longer a phone call away.. because a memory is so much more closer because you are already here.

Snapshot_20190512

I gave in and posted this pic on FB, with this message — No phone call to my mom today, but somehow she feels closer.. because she is in my heart. Always cherish this picture of her with us, even though it doesn’t show her face, because it was taken before church — Mark and I and Paul (and Dad) grew up knowing God in a very personal way because of her. She was a passionate and strong woman whose passion for our Lord she couldn’t help but show. Missing her even more today.

Quick

I haven’t been staying away from my blog on purpose, although I have been visiting the blogs of the people I follow here.  That’s more necessary than my own writing, for the time being.  I tend to gravitate to personal blogs, for obvious reasons (that’s what mine has become), and keeping up with the bike rides, moves, teaching moments, personal life change journeys, etc… of the people I know here is important to me.

My life?

Spending time cultivating a friendship with a pretty neighbor, just a friendship and happy that is all it is at the moment.  She’s a friend who holds my hand and encourages me just by wanting to spend time with me.  It’s nice.  That’s nice.

Enjoying even better relationships with all but one neighbor.  I really like the potential of close knit friendships with the people who live close to me.  One neighbor comes by and keeps me company while I am working on bikes in my garage, another comes up just to say hello and catch up on our lives, another just likes to talk, and another goes on an occasional bike ride with me.

New bicycle in my life, a 2019 Salsa Deadwood carbon SLX.  I bought it on credit, a big no no for me, but I needed this bike.  NEEDED.  More reports on that bike will likely follow.  It’s a 29+ bike, with 2.6″ tires (and it will accomodate up to 3″).  Full suspension.  It’s a totally different type of ride than my Specialized Camber FSR… which I sold to a kid last Sunday.  The Camber had a new frame and shifting components and grips — looked and rode like a new bike.  I said good bye to that bike with tears, but it just didn’t fit me.

Driving my daughter’s old Nissan Versa (almost 200K miles) while my son drives my VW.  He totaled his car.  We have to figure out what to do about his transportation when his sister comes back next month and needs her car for the two months she is here.  I just replaced the brake pads on her car yesterday, with more work needed on the front end (crap crap crap).

Time for church.  Parking lot duties this sunny morning.  Wearing my Cardinals jersey since it’s the first Cards vs Cubs weekend series, even though the Cardinals have dropped the first two games.

More to come.

Goodbye?

IMG_20190413_114341782_HDRIt’s time.  My Specialized Camber FSR 29″ has been a great first serious mountain bike, but its size medium frame has always been a little too small for my 6’1″ body.  I am still hedging a bit, but I listed it for sale this past Saturday, with links to the Craigslist ad posted on several mountain bike group sites, as well as FB Marketplace.

I picked up the bike from the shop last Friday afternoon, paid them $200 to assemble the components from the old frame to the warranty replacement frame.  The bike now has a new medium frame, new drive train (cassette, chain, chainrings, rear derailleur), new handlebar grips, seat, and tires that were new last August.  The shocks have been serviced and rebuilt, as has the bottom bracket.

If the bike fit me, I would keep it.  It’s ready for the season and it looks very good.  The picture was taken last Saturday morning, before I washed up the tires for the listing.  I love the bike and just spent a little over $450 to get it ready to ride.  Instead, I am crossing my fingers that someone will buy it for close to the $1500 asking price (my basement price is $1000).  The money I get will go towards the purchase of a new bike that will fit me.

Someone offered me $750 last night, told me that a bike blue book website says it is only worth close to $800 in good condition.  I told him I would take $1200 since the site doesn’t take into account a new frame and components that were upgraded to Rockshox and SRAM GX from the Suntour suspension and low end Shimano shifting components the website used to calculate the value.  $1200 is a very fair price for this bicycle, as is the $1500 asking price.  There are also two people coming by to look at the bike tonight.  I am not going to give the bike away and will simply keep it if I don’t get the price that I want.

1977

Outside the large storefront windows of the Panera I am sitting in right now, the snow is swirling steadily, a mid-April storm that is bringing a wetted white to the landscape.  Not one to groan too much about the weather, unless it is weather that interrupts my mountain biking for too long, I am enjoying the contrasting beauty of the winter whiteness mingling with the early Spring greens.  Here in northern Illinois, the buds are just beginning to appear, the grass pushing up and promising the warmer weather to come.  Today will be a day to relax in the way God intends, his creation observed from the warmth indoors as well as venturing outside to experience it firsthand.

A friend just texted me to lament the snow, her anxiety rising as she observed the large flakes surging past her window, all from the comforting warmth of her covers.  Stay in bed for a while, I encouraged her.  I couldn’t help but share with her how much I love these Spring snow storms.

My mind can’t help but go back to this time in 1977, the year of the huge Easter snow and ice storm that brought central Illinois to a two week halt.  I don’t remember exactly when the storm hit, just that it was shortly before Easter Sunday.  Thick layers of ice coated trees, yards, roads, power lines… everything, so much that we didn’t have power for nearly two weeks.  Travel was treacherous, not impossible, but only attempted when necessary.  No power also meant no heat in the house, the little bi level house my family lived in quite cold with the unusual weather.  We didn’t have a fireplace, so my parents cautiously heated our home with the gas kitchen stove in the evenings, and a Coleman camp heater in our living room when it got really cold.  My family huddled around the heater by candlelight, telling stories and singing while Mom played the piano.  We didn’t miss the TV too much, rather enjoyed the time without it.

Easter Sunday was special that year.  I remember going to church that morning, the church full despite the challenge to travel there (my family walked to church — or rather we half walked, half skated/slid).  Families huddled together in the wooden pews to keep warm, the church auditorium candle lit, the atmosphere warm with the quiet that comes when there is no amplification or organ music.  Mom played the piano enthusiastically as the congregation sang, the mood worshipful in a way that was special to the moment, people coming together and the stress melting away even as the ice was freezing outside.  I remember watching the fog in the air as everyone sang.  The scent of bacon and pancakes and eggs drifted up from the church basement as the church elders and deacons cooked the annual Easter sunrise breakfast.  Even an ice storm with a power outage could not prevent the annual breakfast from happening.  By the time the Easter sunrise service was over, my stomach was growling from hunger, the tempting smells drawing my thoughts away.

Somehow mom managed to get a nice ham with the fixings for our Easter meal.  We gathered around the table, snug in our coats, as we ate our meal.  The sun came out that day, the storm over, illuminating the bright landscape made even brighter by the ice.

1977 was my sophomore year of high school.  Our school Spring break was extended a week by the power outage and ice.  Even though my friends and I reveled outside during the break, I was anxious about going back to school.  The unplanned school closing meant that the first two track meets of the season would be cancelled, something I was looking forward to.  My freshman year had been a successful running season, a confidence booster as I established myself running the middle distances.  I was hoping my success from my freshman year would carry into my sophomore year.  I was itching to run the entire week.  Instead, my friends and I found ways to have fun on the ice.  We skated in our backyards and on the street, played broom hockey.  One afternoon, we tied a long rope to a metal disc sled and took turns whipping each other around in circles on the street in front of my house.  There was one problem — we swung one guy too close to a car and the rope broke just before the car, shooting him underneath the car.  His mother wasn’t too happy with us, especially when she had to take him to the hospital for x-rays on his (broken) arm!

Once the weather broke, the temperatures rewarded us with beautiful days.  Power was restored.  The ice was replaced by wonderful green.

IMG_20190414_114732732

The view from my living room yesterday.  Lovely!

The storm of 2019 was mild compared to that 1977 ice storm.  It was wet, with lots of pretty snow.  Of course, I wouldn’t have minded missing a day or two of work….